left handed tyers/unwinding thread

I notice sometimes that the thread is unwinding as I tie. What I mean is that the tying thread itself starts to look more like floss--the individual strands become visible as the twist in the thread is removed. I strongly suspect that this is because I am left-handed and the thread is laid (twisted) clockwise, yet the action of tying left-handed is counter-clockwise so it unwinds the thread.

Is this what I am seeing? Is it a problem? If so, is it better to reverse how you wrap the thread, or just to learn to tie right-handed? Hopefully this is not a serious problem and I can just keep tying and unraveling the thread as I do it, but if it's going to noticeably compromise the fly, I should relearn now rather than after the habits are ingrained. At my work, I have to do everything right-handed because ropes are made the same way.
don't know if it will affect anything, though i suspect it won't as long as the thead isn't spreading all about. i do know that some tyers (think classic salmon flies here) purposely unwind there thread to get a smooth head on the flies they tie.

if it bothers you, there are threads that aren't twisted so it won't matter.

Mike Etgen

Not Quite A Luddite, But Can See One From Here

I'm left-handed and until you mentioned it, hadn't thought that what I sometimes see was a by-product of being a lefty. I do sometimes see this unwinding in thread, but more so when I'm winding floss, sometimes to the point I have to "rewind it" as I get ready to tie if off with thread - and I really have to go slowly to get a nice, even laying down of material.

If it's any consolation, I can't say it's affected any of my flies to the point I'd EVER attempt to go right-handed. Like any other lefty, I've made some accomodations when I've needed to, but I think my tying would suffer greatly if I tried to reverse hands. And, in my opinion, reverse-wrapping (wrapping under-away and over-back) would introduce other complications.

It's just my opinion and experience, but I think I do pretty well as a lefty. My flies probably won't win any prizes, but they're decent enough to keep me going, and to continue to enjoy it.
I'm also a lefty and generally need to re-wind my thread once while tying each fly. I also use Uni-thread quite a bit which doesn't have the "floss" like structure of most tying thread. . .but doesn't lay down as flat either.

Great info guys. I'm actually in the process of putting in a pretty good sized order of miscellaneous Uni-threads totally coincidentally. They sure make some cool stuff!:D

Mike Etgen

Not Quite A Luddite, But Can See One From Here

I'm curious what you mean by rewinding your thread. I'm assuming unless you say otherwise that you have to "retwist" your thread to get all the strands back together? If so, I've never thought to do that, even when I get to a place where the thread has started to "unravel" - if that word makes sense. Until Allison's post, I never even thought that it might have something to do with being a lefty...
Thread and rope that's constructed in the laid (twisted) manner is always laid clockwise. If you use a laid line left-handed, it will naturally untwist. What I've noticed tying left-handed is that the thread starts to look "strandy" rather than "twisty" after I've made many wraps. It's probably most noticeable in my case because I'm new at tying, so I'm tying big patterns like WBs and also probably adding a lot of extra wraps because I'm not tying very proficiently yet.

A tyer might notice this and try to re-twist the thread back into the proper shape of thread. I do know that the untwisting weakens laid lines, which is why in my work, I have to do everything right-handed. Imagine if laid 3/4 manila rope were handled in the left-handed manner time and time again. Eventually the rope would be a complete mess, and would not really be a rope any more.

I kind of doubt that a fly is going to disintegrate because it's tied left-handed, but I asked the question because it was curious and I wanted to confirm what I thought I was seeing. Obviously in cases where there are significant loads on the line (as in rope or aircraft cable) this might be a more serious consideration.

Mike Etgen

Not Quite A Luddite, But Can See One From Here

Thanks for the explanation. I don' think until I started tying flies three or so years ago that I ever would have had the opportunity to see this and I hadn't connected to to being left handed. It never occurred to me that threaded rope, cabling, etc., is always twisted the same way - obviously another convention that's taken for granted in the right-handed world. When my thread starts to unravel, as it sometimes does, I've just shrugged and continued...

Does this explain why my heavy extension cords end up in such a mess when I rewind them into a coil between my shoulder and elbow? Hmmm...

Maybe, just in the flytying world, we should go back to the good old days when lefties were FORCED to do things like normal people. Just for grins, here's a limited number of things I do right-handed:

Use scissors
Swing a basebal bat or golf club
Retrieve a fly line (handle on right side of reel...maybe righties do that too?)

Again, to both of y'all, thanks. Next time my thread comes apart, I'll know what's going on and retwist it - good idea!
If you are winding your electrical cables counterclockwise, then yes, that's why they get all messed up. Inside the insulation of that orange cord, there are three wires, green, black and white. They are wound clockwise. Inside green, white and black, there are strands of copper wire. They are also wound clockwise.

See why you gotta coil that orange cable clockwise now?:hmmm:
Allison, don't know whether it's a problem or not. I'm always spinning the bobbin to either flatten or tighten the twist of the thread. Being aware of what the thread is doing should be enough to get you through. For me, I'm always giving the bobbin a spin counterclockwise, for you south paws, I'd imagine a spin clockwise should work.....anybody ever see a lefthanded butter knife? :rolleyes:
Hi Allison, I'm also a lefty but I've never even thought about whether I tie right or left handed (how the heck are you supposed to be able to tell?) since it always seemed to me that neither hand has a dominant role in fly tying. In any case, on smaller flies I often untwist the thread to get it to lay flatter for smaller wraps. Other times I'll throw a half hitch in whenever I notice the thread unwinding too much and then give the bobbin a twist. Sometimes forming a soft loop is easier if the thread is unwound as well since it doesn't seem to kink up as easily.....

Mike Etgen

Not Quite A Luddite, But Can See One From Here
Here's how I would define it:

If you're a lefty, you set the vise up so that the jaw is to your right. The head of your typical fly will be on your left as you face the vice. You wind with and handle the bobbin with your left hand most of the time.

Better yet, read the instructions that come with practically any fly, and look at the pictures (or video). If you're doing everything bass-ackwards from that, you're a lefty!

Then again, you may be truly ambidextrous... do your flies have two heads? or two butt ends? :confused:



Will Fish For Food
Allison said:
Thread and rope that's constructed in the laid (twisted) manner is always laid clockwise.
You obviously know this stuff.

What I would point out is that I've never seen in print a reason why one should tie (for a right handed tyer) back over top, forward under bottom (relative to the hook.) I would think that _somebody_ would have figured this out and published the reason that it's institutionalized. :)

But it is institutionalized. Anyway, it's an easy experiment: us righties will tie in the opposite direction, as will you lefties, and we'll see if we come up with more or less untwisting of the thread. If the winding (when the thread is made) is unwinding (when wrapped on the hook) is correlated, then we should see dramatic differences when we all swap. Allison less, us more.

I'm happy to tie some flies this way, but I'm guessing that this isn't the problem. I know I used to have more problems with the thread flattening (which isn't an issue in and of itself, but it makes the thread more likely to separate & tear.)


Mike Etgen

Not Quite A Luddite, But Can See One From Here
Allison...Had my 100' cord out yesterday since I was trimming the lawn, and rewound it opposite from usual - sure enough made a difference. A few more unwinds and rewinds and it'll be like new!
You obviously know this stuff.
I do. I don't know about fly tying, I'm new to it, but I've been a stagehand for a really long time and the "lay" is something you care about briefly until you understand the concept and then forget it. This is an interesting discussion, and please don't let me derail it, but I think I answered my own question with my post and it was definitely confirmed after seeing a few posts from lefties.

The more I think about it, the less I see it being an issue. I'm glad I asked though, because I have not started tying small patterns where it might matter yet, and the idea of flattening or rounding the thread depending on what you are doing makes really good sense to me.

I hope I don't sound like a kissass when I say I'm always impressed with the information I get here--it's a great site.:thumb:

Now, if anyone is still reading, do you have any suggestions for good patterns to learn to get more skills? So far I am staying with the big (Wolly Bugger) and the simple smaller stuff. What would be a few good patterns to learn to get some more tricks? I need to learn to tie some dry flies as spring settles in, and it would be helpful for me to ease in on the really small stuff with a few really easy chronomid or midge type patterns. I have some good books with pictures, just not sure what are going to be good "learning" patterns that are also useful. One I like is Griffith's Gnat as it looks like some of the midges I'm seeing hatching on the lakes, especially if they are brownish. Is that a pretty good one for me to learn next?